Birmingham & Black Country

Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper dies

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Media captionTributes paid to Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper

The leader of Sandwell Council, Darren Cooper, has died suddenly.

Mr Cooper, 52, who had been a councillor since 1991 and leader since 2009, died on Saturday evening, the authority said.

Deputy leader Steve Eling said it was a "terrible shock to everyone who knew Darren".

"He was hugely liked and respected by both his colleagues at the council and the constituents who he was dedicated to serving."

Mr Eling will assume the role of council leader, as is procedure.

"I would like to remember the funny and humorous friend who loved the Albion and bank holiday fishing. We shall all miss Darren, a true son of Sandwell," said Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party and MP for West Bromwich East.

Image copyright Jas Sansi
Image caption Ninder Johal, president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: "This picture encapsulates everything about Darren Cooper - full of life and fun."

Mr Cooper was a West Bromwich Albion fan. Upon hearing the news, the club tweeted: "All at #wba are saddened to hear of the death of Sandwell leader and huge Baggies fan Darren Cooper. Condolences to his wife and family."

Former Labour party leader Ed Miliband said: "He was charismatic, innovative, in touch with the people he represented and a deeply loyal person.

"His death at such an early age is a terrible tragedy most of all for his family and friends and for the whole Labour party."

Mr Cooper had represented the Soho and Victoria ward in Smethwick since May 1991 and became Leader of Sandwell Council in December 2009.

He worked as a mental health nurse, based at Winson Green Prison until he took redundancy two years ago to concentrate on his political career.

He is believed to have been taken ill while watching England's friendly against Germany.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Image caption Many expected Darren Cooper to run as Labour's candidate for an elected mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority next year, said political reporter Rob Mayor.

Analysis by BBC's Black Country political reporter Rob Mayor

Darren Cooper was well thought of in the Labour Party, had led Sandwell Council since 2009 and had clear ambitions to further his political career.

Many expected him to try to run as the party's candidate for an elected Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority next year.

He recently told me he was excited about the idea of the job, but was still weighing up how an increased profile would impact on his family.

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